The power of thought: From your brain onto Facebook

Mindreading man with a crazy tinfoil hat
Facebook calls its technology 'silent speech interfaces' (Getty)

Wish your every thought could be posted to Facebook, without the need for a phone or a keyboard?

The tech giant's revealed it has dozens of engineers working on it.

"What if you could type directly from your brain?" Facebook executive Regina Dugan told a crowd at Facebook's F8 Live conference in San Jose, California.

"It sounds impossible, but it's closer than you think."

The social network hopes to have a non-invasive brain interface that allows users to 'type' at 100 words per minute, in any language.

"Think of them as 'silent speech interfaces' with all the convenience of voice and the privacy of text," Ms Dugan said.

"Just as you take many photos and decide to share some of them, so too, you have many thoughts and decide to share some of them in the form of the spoken word. It is these words, words that you have already decided to send to the speech centre of your brain, that we seek to turn into text."

Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg said our brains process the equivalent of four HD movies of information every second, while our speech "can only transmit about the same amount of data as a 1980s modem".

"We're working on a system that will let you type straight from your brain about five times faster than you can type on your phone today. Eventually, we want to turn it into a wearable technology that can be manufactured at scale."

Mr Zuckerberg called it a "first step" towards being able to "share a pure thought or feeling".

Braille 2.0

Another innovation Facebook's working on is the ability to "hear through your skin", says Ms Dugan.

"You have two square metres of skin on your body, packed with sensors, and wired to your brain. In the 19th century, Braille taught us that we could interpret small bumps on a surface as language. Since then many techniques have emerged that illustrate our brain's ability to reconstruct language from components."

She showed the audience a video of a Facebook tester feeling "the acoustic shape" of words on her arm.

"One day not so far away, it may be possible for me to think in Mandarin and for you to feel it instantly in Spanish," said Ms Dugan.

It'll work by skipping past the speech part of the brain altogether. Ms Dugan says when we think of an object, our brains don't use the text, so nor should automatic should translation services.

"Understanding semantics means that one day you may be able to choose to share your thoughts independent of language. English, Spanish or Mandarin - they all become the same."

Ms Dugan used to head the US government's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Previous DARPA inventions include the Arpanet - which evolved into today's internet - as well GPS, the technology behind Siri and Google Maps and the humanoid Atlas robot.